KKR partnership buys into digital education

KKR invested ‘hundreds of millions’ in a partnership called Weld North in 2010, which has made its first acquisition for a reported $50m.

Weld North, a private equity partnership between Kohlberg Kravis & Roberts and former Kaplan chief executive officer Jonathan Grayer, has acquired Education2020, an e-learning and digital education company.

The New York Times has reported that the purchase price was around $50 million, although that could not be confirmed as of press time. Grayer declined to comment on the details of the transaction. 

Education2020, also known as e2020, produces digital education products designed for students grades six through 12. The company’s curriculum is centered on the credit recovery market, designed for students and adults who have fallen behind in traditional core curriculums.

As digital education services have improved, school systems have adapted by incorporating them into credit recovery programs and, to a lesser extent, core curriculums. Weld North plans on using e2020 as a base to expand its digital education curriculum and services platform, Grayer said.

“The credit recovery market has improved dramatically with the advent of digital education,” Grayer said. “We’re going to take this product and turn it mainstream.”

KKR and Grayer founded Weld North in early 2010. KKR invested “hundreds of millions” of dollars in the joint venture, which focuses on firms in the consumer services, education, media, personal services and marketing sectors. Arizona-based e2020 is the firm’s first acquisition.

Grayer left Kaplan, an education service provider owned by The Washington Post Company, in 2008 after 14 years as its CEO.

Weld North’s managing director for education Sari Factor will join e2020 as chief executive officer. Before joining Weld North, Factor was president of Kaplan’s K12 Learning Services division.

“Digital learning better meets the needs of today’s students and is the fastest growing segment of the education business today,” Factor said in a statement.

The acquisition is one of several private equity firms have made in the for-profit education sector recently. Earlier this month, Providence Equity Partners entered an agreement to buy Blackboard, which produces digital communication products for the education sector, for $1.6 billion. Chicago-based private equity firm Thoma Bravo acquired online education service provider Plato Learning for $143 million last year.